It may not be long before we are traveling like the Jetsons. If one is old enough to remember the cartoon, it was the mother who had the first automatic vacuum. It took 50 years for scientists to discover how to make it a reality. t’s called the Roomba. Surprising enough, it has been cartoonists in the past who have spurred the creation of many life changing inventions. Flash Gordon was a 1934 comic strip character who took off to the moon. Thirty years later, Apollo 11, the first manned spaceship was launched.
I’ve been asked what is the difference between successful students and those who never reach their potential. I believe it comes down to a belief that one can create.
In a world where our students are taught to pass tests, they have lost the opportunities to discover their ability to create ideas and answers that may not fall into mainstream thought. They are not always taught to question everything they read including data driven information. Scientists are known to manipulate data to prove a point. If one is looking for an answer and turns to the internet, their answers will be filtered and what is seen first is what has money behind it. If I want this article read, I can pay to position it so it shows up first.
Our children have been conditioned to turn to others to find answers, when they have the innate ability to answer all their own questions and problems.
As young children, when problems arise, they turn directly to a parent or near by adult. As they grow older, they turn to teaches, peers, and the internet. But, they have not been taught how to turn inward like Einstein, Edison, Steve Jobs, and Elong Musk. Those individuals saw problems and didn’t turn to the internet, but turned inward to find unique and innovative answers.
The person who had time to create the Flash Gordon series or the Jetsons had challenges in mind when they were created and they fantasized about the solutions. Years later, their fantasies became realities.
Einstein stated, “If I have a life challenging problem upon which my life depends on me finding a solution within an hour, I will spend the first 55 minutes coming up with a good question to ask to answer it and solve the problem. Then I can solve it in 5 minutes. In our schools, we don’t offer such time for thinking. Teachers are often looking for instant answers, which turns off the crucial time our brains need to think creatively. Children aren’t given questions that require deeper thinking and given opportunities to discover how they can answer them. Some children may need to swing outside or take a walk to tap into their creative minds. Another might need to go for a run or jump rope. Others might need to use a meditation app to allow their brains to relax while searching for an answer.
We need to teach the Einstein method for problem solving. He would sit in a rocking chair with metal balls in his hands. He placed two metal bowls on the floor where the balls would drop when his hands would relax when he was fully relaxed. He would ask a question and close his eyes. When the balls dropped, he would awake with an answer. Many people go to sleep with a question in mind and upon wakening the next day, they have an answer.
Parents can offer children opportunities to learn how to create. We all have the ability, but most have not tapped into it.
- Don’t answer questions without asking, “What do you think?” Children are often thinking deeply and what validation, but we give our answer, we fail to hear their’s and often it stops their creative thought. If we say something different than what they were thinking, we will miss their train of thought. It is very enlightening to hear their perspectives. I have learned more by asking than the children have learned by me telling.
- Encourage them to take time to break away from a challenge before stepping in and helping. Point out that when we get frustrated, we often lose our ability to solve the challenge. Moving away for it will allow the brain to search for a solution. It may take 5 minutes or two days, but allow that time for finding a solutions independently. This can begin as young as 3 when children are learning to put together puzzles. Parents and siblings are very quick at trying to show how it works. This does not leave room for learning through failure. Children that learn that they may fail a few times before they find a solution are much more successful later on in life. Allow the child to keep trying. Suggest they try different ways, but don’t show them. If it frustrates them more, suggest they take a break and try it the next day. Pick it up and remove it while distracting with a toy that will provide success. Remind them that the toy they know how to use was hard at first. When the puzzled is tried the next day, they will see it from a different perspective and when success is achieved, confidence builds.
- If children say, “I don’t get this problem.” refrain from reading it aloud to them. They can do that themselves. Often a problem has to be read several times while placing emphasis on different words before it is completely understood. If it still frustrates them, have them skip it and come back to it. Once they move on, they are stopping the stress response and the answer often comes as soon as they divert their attention to another problem.
- Teach them about how the brain works. The amygdala is the structure that starts off a chemical reaction in the brain when senses a threat. It slows brain processing, because it sends the blood to the legs to allow for a quick get-a-way. This robs the brain of the ability to do any problem solving or creative thinking. That’s why Einstein took naps. Breaking the stress response will allow for the solution to appear.
- Celebrate mistakes and encourage them to come up with their own solution for avoiding them in the future.
- Present them with personal journals and establish a journal writing habit each morning upon awakening. If they write down whatever comes to mind, they will begin to be amazed at what their brains will create. It may be the solution to a major world challenge. One does not have to have a formal education to create the next best answer to a challenge facing people around the world. They have to drop the limiting belief that a degree is required for success.
- Children need many opportunities to discuss differing opinions with family members. If it is okay for members of the family to share their own perspectives on topics, children will learn how to agree to disagree. We often clarify our creative thought when we get a chance to have healthy discussions with others.
Creativity is limitless and is necessary to meet the demands of this rapidly changing world. It has to be nurtured not stifled.
Elon Musk has been the subject of criticism due to unorthodox or unscientific stances, because he did not agree with mainstream science. Our children need to question what they are told and seek other ways to solve challenges that those who are prominent in the field haven’t thought of in the past. That is how progress happens.
It was a cartoonist who envisioned space travel to the moon. It wasn’t the scientist. It took a scientist to figure out how to do it. We need to promote our creatives and encourage them to dream and be the creators of the future.
Side note: Our creatives are often labeled with assorted letters after their names. Einstein’s creativity and his desire to find answers led to fires and burning down a barn. He was totally misunderstood. We don’t want children burning down buildings, but we do want them to realize that a label does not mean they can’t become creative.